The WSOP Main Event kicks off today at the Rio in Las Vegas and thousands of players will plunk down $10,000 with the goal of being one of the final nine players to compete for poker’s most coveted title later this fall.
Each year, much attention is focused upon the last woman standing in poker’s most celebrated tournament. Since its inception nearly 4 and 1/2 decades ago, only one lady has managed to break through and capture a final table finish. Barbara Enright took home 5th place prize money in 1995, marking the only time in the history of poker that the fairer sex was represented at a WSOP Main Event final table.
Last year, the entire poker community was transfixed by the play of Elisabeth Hille and Gaelle Baumann, who just missed being included in the Octo-Nine, finishing 11th and 10th, respectively. Both were knocked out of the competition by Andras Koroknai, the lone 2012 final tablist who was not an American citizen. The Hungarian’s pocket 7’s held up against the three-bet all-in pre-flop A-Q of Hille, and his A-J outkicked Baumann’s A-9 when the board revealed Q-Q-3-8-K.
Many players and fans were rooting for the young ladies to make the final table and both received tremendous applause from the rail upon their eliminations. Both took home $590,422 in prize money and will forever be remembered for making a deep run that fell just short of the elite class of WSOP Main Event final tablists.
Since their historic play at last year’s Main Event, both Hille and Baumann have cashed at other live tourneys. Baumann finished 76th at WSOP’s Event #44 less than two weeks ago. She earned $7,287 for her efforts after buying in for $3,000. Prior to that, the Hendon Mob database lists the France native’s other cashes since last summer as 31st place in the Battle of Malta Poker Tournament in November for $1,625 and an 11th place finish at the EPT Sanremo in Italy that was good for $16,527 in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em Re-entry event.
Hille has five cashes since bursting onto the poker scene last year and winning more than half a million dollars after her boyfriend staked her for the WSOP Main Event on poker winnings of his own. Her best finish was 8th place for $3,932 at a Betfair-sponsored event in Ireland in October. The Norway-born Hille also managed a 50th place finish at the World Poker Tour $3,300 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event in Prague in December, pocketing $9,411. Her most recent cash came in May at the EPT Grand Final in Monaco, where 37th place of the $1,000 re-entry Monaco Cup netted $4,130.
As poker is so heavily dominated by men and the WSOP Main Event is comprised of a very large field that sees only a small percentage of women participants, the odds are certainly not in favor of one (or more) of the ladies standing out among the crowd. That’s part of the reason why the last woman standing receives so much fanfare and attention. And it’s also why last year’s run to determine the final table had many players, men and women alike, so taken by the fact that two rising stars of the female persuasion nearly made it.
Many believe that the next lady with the best chance of landing at the WSOP Main Event final table is Vanessa Selbst. Poker’s all-time leader on the money list for females had a stellar WSOP last summer, cashing five times for more than $530,000 that included a gold bracelet in the $2,500 Six-Handed 10 Game event good for $244,259. Selbst also landed 73rd in the Main Event, grabbing $88,070.
Day 1A of the WSOP Main Event gets underway at noon today, with days 1B and 1C following on Sunday and Monday. It will take 10 days and thousands of live poker hands to determine who will be seated at poker’s main stage this fall. Poker fans the world over would love to see a woman included among the final tablists. Will this be the year that it happens?